Appearance customization, (why) is it important?

I see a lot of games around where, in the beginning of the game, you spent time choosing things like hair colour and skin colour and body type and tattoos and what have you. In a game that is set entirely in your imagination and a character that is entirely of your own creation, why would you need to choose these options concretely when it’s easy enough to imagine whatever you want? Is it to solidify an idea in your own head? Is it worth slowing down and dragging out the start of the story and breaking immersion for you?


Because sometimes the author had to be a jerk and add an embarasing scene where you struggle to mount a horse because you chose low body-height :upside_down_face:


Well then, I can tell how obviously far on your side of the fence you are.

It actually adds immersion for me and a lot of others. Yes, to solidify my own headcanon, but it’s also one of the most immersive things when an NPC acknowledges a part of my appearance later on. It’s just something that can really throw you into the game world. Not to mention that, after spending some time actually looking through the options/creating the MC, it can and always does bring me that much closer to the player character.


For me those character customization choices do two things.

First, and most importantly they really help get my character set in my mind. Even if they are never referred to again.

Second they’re sort of a promise or a reassurance that later in the game they author isn’t going have some line about me being the shortest one in the room when I’d been imagining a tall character, or something like that.


I think this is the important bit - sometimes character customisation is setup purely for the reader’s imagination, and never mentioned again in the story. In this instance it’s reasonable to consider it superfluous I’m sure, but, as you’ve said, when the details you specify become woven into the narrative then it’s fantastic!


For me, setting appearance helps ground a character, or form a concrete image in the player’s mind. Also, sometimes, it provides an added degree of representation. For example, if a choice of ethnicity is offered and you see your own ethnicity among them, it helps acknowledge that people like you exist in the game world.

This sort of customization can also help in bringing the MC in line with the rest of the cast. Every cast member getting vivid descriptions but the MC remaining a blank slate sometimes feels weird.


I think it’s less about immersion and more about how to present it.

As you said here

I wholeheartedly agree with this.
This rings true to quite numerous WIPs I’ve recently read, unfortunately.

The keyword is “optional.” If your story can’t do it, then it’s “pacing.”

It’s important to not slog the readers/players down with a barrage of boring questions, especially at the beginning of the story.

In fact, you don’t necessarily have to inquire the PC’s name early on. Even Mecha Ace asks your name at chapter 2 (although the stats and the gender had to be established early on. But 'twas within reason).


I need it because it helps me “see” the MC in my head. If there is none to limited character customization then I only see a white page or blank slate with thoughts and feelings. It is hard to actually see them as a person then. The ability to costumize the MC brings them to life in my case.


It helps my mind and imagination to get even more immersed in the story and adds my own personal touches to the character im playing


you are ‘assuming’ alot here…

Lot of peoples , including me waste alot of times in character customization in games that include them . And I mean 3D games ! I can easely sink 1h just deciding on class alone !
(BG2 was one of those guilty games)

Choiceofgames are GAMES . Therefor the customization add to the sense of ‘game’ instead of ‘book or Novel’ .

2nd , I don’t need help with my imagination . But it’s alot of fun to customize my character . It’s a Tool where I can paint my MC any way I want .

3rd it’s also important for alot of peoples , period . Because farther then just hair and heigh . You have SHE , HE and different orientation . And those are just as important .

4th It never break ANYTHING for me . It’s like any other game ! I watch the intro , lose time customizing everything then dig in !

5th customization also mean I get to play as ME . I get to read SHE DID , SHE KISSED , SHE KILLED…do you know how many years I’been waiting for that ? SINCE THE ATARI!


@anon89206566 with breaking of immersion I purely mean the moment when the story takes you out of the action in order to ask you to choose various customization options, not the return of said options later on. Immersion breaking might not have been the best way to put it, more like it takes a story that’s moving and then pulls the breaks for the customization segment, stopping all the actions to deviate to character creation. Of course it depends on the way it’s pulled off and the better integrated into the story the less disruptive it’ll be.

Anyway so for you the halt in the story is worth it mostly because of the payoff of the acknowledgment of those choices, right?

@Camille622 Thanks for replying! Okay that makes sense. Not only does it help you make your character’s appearance official, but it also promises that there won’t be an immersion-breaking author’s assumption later on?

@muffy So the hard part on the author’s part would then be not making it feel contrived, since you’ll know the only reason it’s there is to nod back to your earlier choices.

@EclecticEccentric Okay so for you it also helps to combat the hollywood everyone in this fantasy setting is white narrative by making it clear that people like you or whichever ethnicity you want your character to have definitely exist in this universe?

@Szaal Yes that’s where my concern comes in most. The start of the story is the most important part, the bit that has to grab the reader, and it’s exactly where you don’t want the pacing to slow down. So unless the plot has room for a very natural introduction (which I’ve seen done! A Witch’s Curse has a very nice way of tying it directly to the plot) it becomes a detriment vs. payoff question. Thanks for the thoughtful reply btw!

@Ninja1 and @ultravioletgaia Aah it’s really to the detriment of your enjoyment of the story if it’s not there, then?

@E_RedMark Woah there, chill dude. I’m asking for your experience not challenging your experience, there’s no need for defensiveness and caps. There is a distinct different between a character creation in a game where you see the reflection of your efforts for 30+ hours and character creation in a game where your choice will generally never or superficially be reflected back, right?

So the question is do you need the customization section to form an image of your character, as upposed to conjuring them up yourself? There’s no wrong answer here, your imagination isn’t lesser if you need the prompts to sit down and think the way your characters looks.

As for gender and orientation choice, there’s a reason why I titled this appearance customization. Both of those are obviously much bigger parts of the narrative than appearance, even if it’s just for the sake of what pronouns to use.

Wouldn’t it be “you did, you kissed, you killed” as is the convention? It’s cool that you’ve been waiting for this since the atari but you don’t have to digitally yell it at me, my dude.


Gotta agree with some of the other comments, choosing how my character looks allows me to feel that they’re actually in that world. One example from a comment is where you imagine you’re character to be taller than most but the author doesn’t make it so by allowing someone who is of average height to be taller than me, or if I imagine my character to be muscular and big but there’s a bigger guy who is just has an athletic build, ya know?

Sometimes author put it in stories just for the sake of it and doesnt acknowledge your character’s appearance which bothers me at times, like if you’re gonna put character creation in there then at least acknowledge them from time to time.

It doesn’t bother me a lot, like if the character creation/customization option isn’t there then I can roll with it but if its is then I expect the writer(s) to allow me to appreciate my created character. Lol, its like an Elder Scrolls game, I spend so much time in the character creator it would be disappointing if a Nord or any other race didn’t point out my Redguard’s race.


this…didn’t help your post . Sorry if I come off as ‘yelling’ .

well yes , but…peoples write these ‘choices’ and ‘customization’ to add depth to their story . To help immerse the reader in the story . And it’s not an easy task…let me tell you .

there are some story that ‘need’ the customization . Like playing a different specie ! that’s (in my opinion’ like asking why do we need different weapons in a game ? cose they don’t all work the same way , they don’t look the same , they don’t weigh the same (Talking about guns for exemple) and open up more choices later on .

So the answer here , is pretty much to give peoples a wider pool to play in . For them to choose their own characters for the same story everyone is playing . That’s pretty much the main goal of customization . It reinforce the 'THIS IS YOUR CHARACTER and yours alone!!! ‘’ .

it’s dudette…but just out of curiousity…was my yelling in 2D pixel ? :laughing: ya know all cubes like and stuff ? XD

I am really not visual at all so i really don’t need these options. They don’t bother me but they don’t do a lot for me … if it’s 20 questions i would get bored but height build and colouring is fine. So nice if it is referenced again though … if it never comes up and literally changes nothing i don’t care really…

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Why? Like I said in a reply to another user, breaking up the action to feed a player several lists of customization option fundamentally breaks up and slows down the narrative. That doesn’t mean it’s instantly the devil or anything, it just means that the benefits have to be weighed against the detriments, especially when the beginning of a story is so important in hooking the reading. I’m not saying they’re trash or anything, I’m just asking for people’s opinions on them. Why are they so prevalent when, at first glance, you wouldn’t think an interactive novel would need them. Do people mind the break in action? Is the payoff worth it? And I’m getting some really good responses, user experience research if you will, but it also seems I’ve hit some sensitive nerve I didn’t know existed?

Anyway again, I wouldn’t count species under appearance customization. That’s a whole other beast, one that should actually reflect throughout the game/book as people reflect differently to different species. It’s more like having a weapon in the game and asking the player what colour is it? Are there any decals on it? Does it have an adorable bunny keychain? Not as important, could be done away with by pure imagination, but fun.

(Dude is gender neutral, I kind of figured you’re a girl after the SHE DID, SHE KISSED, SHE KILLED thing. Bit of a giveaway)

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but they aren’t interactive novel . They are GAMES . You just don’t read , you click buttons and make choices and decisions .

if it is a Novel (like Visual Novel) then you won’t see dialogues or choices of any kind . well the ones I played on steam…it was click new game and that was it…you just read and listen to a soundtrack in the background .

I apologize again lol it’s sensitive to me , because like I said…years of playing games that are gender locked . Then we finally starting to see games with proper customizations . In middle of the ‘Yay! finally! I can make something that look like meh’ You hear someone in the mass say ‘Boo! waste of ressources ! scrap it! Let’s go back to the old way!’ .

And that doesn’t apply to just customization , for exemple did you know there were peoples claiming playing a healer class is useless and pointless ?

it kinda does . There is this WIP where instead of choosing color of hair for exemple , you choose a specie to play as . I also…I think the code is the same lol .


Honestly I’d say they’re a little bit of both, and that’s fine. I said novel because it underlines the lack of concrete visuals. Anyway getting into an argument about what exactly a CoG game is or isn’t is not really what I want to get into here. I mean I’ve got a masters in game analysis, I could go on for hours about What Is A Game but, trust me, that won’t make either of us happy, it’d most be pedantic and annoying.

It’s cool, we worked through it. For normal, visual oriented games or games that have a set protagonist I 100% agree. I mean I’m a woman too, representation is important no matter which way you cut it. The question is, for a game without visuals and generally told in second person, does there have to be concrete confirmation and, if so, why? So, tell me, why is that confirmation important to you? Is it because you want to see yourself represented in black and white, no questions about it, this is me? (again, completely neutral question, no right or wrong ansers, it’s all about your personal experience)

Just because the choice code is the same (isn’t it the same for whatever variable you set anyway?) doesn’t mean the inpact is the same. Are you really arguing that choice of hair colour has the same depth or lack thereof as choice of species?

I totally see both sides and that’s why I think it’s great when those aesthetic options are not only available but able to be skipped. I’m a very visual person, like many others have said, I like to cement my character’s appearance and if the author references it later in the game then that’s just gravy. However, I totally understand where the OP is coming from in the litany of options slowing the story down.


I already answered this question : It give players a BIGGER POOL to play in .

more like gray…

I know what’s black and white…they are the extreme opposite of a balance . The gray and all shades of grays are the nuances that often are missing .

depand on the context and the game . If you want to generalise and be vague then the answer is NO . If you want to zoom closer then it become a bit more complex and the answer become a yes .

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Oops, the black and white thing was my bad, literaly translation of a saying in my other native language. Bilingual problems. With that I mean officially, like it’s on paper and it’s undeniable.